What the Better Half Brings

By Cottle, Michelle | Newsweek, February 6, 2012 | Go to article overview

What the Better Half Brings


Cottle, Michelle, Newsweek


Byline: Michelle Cottle

The Yin to Newt's Yang

Of all the aspiring first ladies in this election, none packs the visual--and visceral--punch of Callista Gingrich. The frozen smile, the retina-searing suits, the bulletproof platinum swoop--all combine to give Newt's 45-year-old spouse a look that isn't so much soothingly old-fashioned as combatively retro. And with a manner as prim as her trademark pearls, it's little wonder that Callista elicits such unflattering descriptions as "Fembot," "Stepford wife," and "plasticine."

That said, Callista's astronaut-wife sheen fulfills a crucial role ascribed to first ladies: providing a contrast to her man's image in order to convey a sense of equilibrium.

On the presidential trail, the romantic cliche "opposites attract" has strategic applications. Candidates grappling with a particular likability problem--like, say, a certain sitting president's perceived aloofness--often turn to their wives to balance the scales.

Take the Bushes. Whereas George H.W. was a caricature of the reserved, out-of-touch patrician, Barb was everyone's favorite grandma, as homey and frumpy as the president was crisp and formal. George and Laura made an even finer pairing. He: the loudmouthed, swaggering cowboy. She: the soft-spoken, modest librarian. As for the Obamas, how much chillier and more remote would Professor Barack seem without the J. …

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